Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Biosecurity Karenwaffen Will Not Be Satisfied With Merely Shaming Or Punishing You...,

slate |   The second reason shame has been criticized is that many have conflated shame’s worth as a tool with the norms some use shame to try to uphold. The shame that accompanies sexually transmitted infections, for example, has more to do with the problematic norms around sex that remain in our society then shame itself. The shame that accompanies illness more broadly has to do with the problematic norm that assumes, falsely, that we will all remain able-bodied and healthy and that if we do not, it is linked to some form of moral or behavioral failing. In both cases, the shame isn’t the  problem—the norms are. Instead of throwing out shame, we should be more conscious of how we use it.

In spite of the current uproar against it, Americans do routinely use shame as a tool, quietly and comfortably. “We shame poor people all of the time,” said Phuong Luong, a certified financial planner and educator at Just Wealth (and also a friend). In her role as a financial planner, Luong, has helped low-income people access public services. “If you’ve ever gone into an office to apply for public benefits like welfare or food stamps, it can be a really demeaning and stressful experience,” she said. “The quality, tone, and respect in customer service between a private service and a public service is so different. And I think we make poor people jump through so many hoops to show effort and to show motivation, to get what they need.” It’s as if the process was designed to evoke shame.

But shame can work positively as a tool with people or institutions when the thing happening is in fact worth punishing, and other forms of punishment are out of reach. “In a system where formal punishment is missing, that’s when the informal mechanisms step in,” said Jacquet. You can, for example, incarcerate an individual but, “it’s much more difficult, almost impossible to take away the liberty of an entire group like Exxon Mobil,” she explained. You can, however, shame them as climate activists do when they troll oil companies on Twitter. It’s about depriving these companies of their social license and reputation, which, in many cases, they worked very hard to create.

On the individual level, Jacquet points to the policies that some states have publishing the names of residents who owe a significant sum in taxes—in California, it’s more than $100,000; in Wisconsin, it’s $5,000, but those on the top 100 list all currently owe more than $400,000—as another example of effective shaming. The late taxpayers are given letters in advance of the list’s publication, with the expectation that the threat of exposure will get them to pony up (or at least enter into a repayment plan)—and it often does. When the state of Wisconsin launched its tax-shaming program in 2006, it thought it would recoup $1.5 million in its first year of operation; the state ultimately collected 15 times that in that year.